A Nelsonville Police Department officer was fired Wednesday after making racist comments toward Hocking College’s interim police chief.
In an unanimous vote, six Nelsonville City Council members voted to terminate NPD Officer Joshua Braglin for violating social media policies. Council member Grant Guda did not attend the meeting.
Nelsonville City Manager Charles Barga had been investigating since December several Facebook screenshots from Braglin’s account in which he made racist remarks about interim Hocking College Police Department Chief Tiffany Tims, who is African American.
Barga said Braglin’s termination is effective immediately. Because Braglin is a union employee, he has the ability to file a grievance against the decision.
An internal investigation found that Braglin used racial slurs to describe Tims in social media posts. Several officers recalled Braglin using those slurs in conversations and Facebook messages. He was also accused of drinking alcohol on-duty.
On Dec. 13, Tims filed an official complaint against Braglin. She outlined several of the Facebook posts and said they began after she gave an order on Nov. 9 for NPD officers to leave the scene of an active shooter, as the Athens County Sheriff’s Office was already on the scene.
“His actions and public writings are grievously and glaringly harmful to not only myself, but the officers of my department, the College I represent, African American officers, female officers, and the entire profession of law enforcement,” Tims wrote in her report.
Tims said after she gave the order, Braglin went on a “public tirade.” Braglin posted on Facebook three times and claimed that her order put NPD officers in harm's way, according to the report.
Barga also received an anonymous complaint on March 26 stating that Braglin said he would “beat that n----- b---- with a banana” if Tims became the NPD chief of police.
Braglin was placed on paid administrative leave on April 3 due to Vivitrol use, a drug used to prevent drug and alcohol relapses. Braglin was then placed on unpaid leave on April 22 while the investigation continued.
In one post, Braglin wrote “A reading from the book of Braglin...if that half a-- chief and bitty president of a sinking college don’t like your comments, tell them to F--- off.” The post also says there are two rooms in the lord’s house, one with bananas and one with “effordent.”
When asked about the posts in a pre-disciplinary interview with former Ohio University Police Department chief Ted Jones, Braglin admitted to writing the posts, but said he did not intend for them to be racist. Braglin said he saw how they could be misinterpreted, according to Jones’ report.
OU International Socialist Organization protested during council’s meeting along with Nelsonville residents demanding that City Council fire Braglin.
“Nelsonville police officer Joshua Braglin has repeatedly posted outrageously racist images and comments on social media,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post. “Recently, Braglin went on a racist and misogynistic tirade against the Hocking College Police Department Chief Tiffany Tims, a Black woman, who he has called a ‘b----’ and a ‘n-----.”
Tims sent the City of Nelsonville a report alleging Braglin drank alcohol while on duty on March 28. An officer told Tims that Braglin smelled strongly of alcohol.
The officer said this is not the first time Braglin had been intoxicated while on duty, according to the report.
In his pre-disciplinary hearing on April 2, NPD Chief Chris Johnson recommended Braglin’s termination in his report.
“Officer Braglin stated his posts were not intended to be a racist comment,” Johnson wrote in his report. “When put into context with another post/meme shared by Officer Braglin to several department members that same day, I see no other way to take his intent on this social media post.”
Barga said he is comfortable with how the investigation was handled and council’s decision “even though the process took longer than all would have liked or anticipated.”